The ‘Bhikkhuni Issue’ – Resurgence of the the four-fold sangha following a thousand years of discrimination

The ‘Bhikkhuni Issue’
Resurgence of the four-fold sangha
(following a thousand years of discrimination)

Aloka Vihara Bhikkhunīs walking in the forest…

Some years ago I had the privilege of attending a daylong retreat given by a female renunciate who was struggling (along with others) with the fact that in the Theravāda Buddhist tradition there were no more fully ordained nuns. At one point in the history of the tradition, the number of nuns fell below the requisite number required to ‘legally’ ordain another nun. Having listened to her expound the Dhamma that day (and realizing just how deeply it was needed here in the West), I found myself in tears as I urged her to disregard sanctions against the action and proceed to take full ordination… to become a fully ordained Buddhist nun in the Theravadin tradition.

The power of the Dhamma (when heard in appropriate circumstances) is great. It can crack open hearts that have been longing to be free.  Of course, that day I was but one small voice of many, but now I am happy to say there is a growing Sangha of nuns, who are deepening their practice and spreading the teachings of Shakyamuni Gotama throughout the land. Despite the objections of the Elders (and those had consequences), I am told that Buddhists today are joyful to see such a Bhikkhunī in their midst. For some, it is tantamount to encountering a mythical creature, and they are moved to tears. That gladdens my heart considerably. 

My own Mountain Stream lay-sangha hosted a talk by Mindy Zlotnick this evening, entitled I Will Not Pass Away, Reinstating the Buddha’s Vision of the Four-fold Sangha:

Also, Sunday (August 14, 2017), we were treated to a Daylong Retreat led by Ayya Santacitta, from the Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery.

Ayya Santacitta

We have come a very long way towards actualizing the dream of a new Bhikkhunī Sangha and, for that, I rejoice.

Video: “History (or Her-story) of Women in Buddhism” with Ayya Tathaaloka

Video: Ajahn Brahm & Dhammasara Nun’s Monastery – A documentary

For those who would know more, I offer the following:

As a footnote, it is worth mentioning that Ānandajoti Bhikkhu‘s remarkable website, Ancient Buddhist Texts, has an interesting section of “Works in Pali centering on Women” with the following:

Speaking to the issue of Tibetan “Buddhism and the Challenge for Women & Western Monastics,” we have the following YouTube video by Ayya Yeshe:

Thanks to Adimutti Bhikkhunī for bringing this to our attention:

Study Buddhism added a new video (for full-screen view, click here: Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo – The Role of Women in Buddhism).

The renowned Buddhist teacher Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo (official) talks about the role of women in Buddhism, exploring the issue of full ordination for nuns and the increasing confidence of the new generation of female practitioners.

Bringing the Dhamma/Dharma to the West challenges old traditions.

In spite of all obstacles, may all feminine hearts be free — now and forever.

6 thoughts on “The ‘Bhikkhuni Issue’ – Resurgence of the the four-fold sangha following a thousand years of discrimination

  1. This is, I believe, is the same as the one in the above link, “Global directory of Theravada Bhikkhunī monasteries” (Alliance for Bhikkhunis). But I’m delighted to have the straight Google link here as well.

    A deep bow, dear Sabbamitta, for your practice. It is fulfilling a profound need in this worrisome world.

  2. Thank you for this timely and very comprehensive article.

    As with most things, language is important. “The Bikkhuni Issue” implies some kind of problem with the female sangha, when the “issue” is the discriminatory constraints that have prevailed in the past and are still being defended. “The Issue of Discrimination in Buddhist Traditions” would perhaps be more appropriate.

    To see the return of full bikkhuni ordination is the most wonderful thing my ageing heart could have wished for. Bikkhunis are a blessing, not an issue.

    1. Point well taken, Teando. I have, in response, added to the title “Resurgence of the the four-fold sangha following a thousand years of discrimination.” It is still an ‘issue’ for many, but I believe this now makes my firm POV clear at the outset.

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